All posts by Mr Executive

5 Marketing Strategies From Major Brands: What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes and Successes

Marketing is a spectator sport. We can all learn from each other by observing what brands do in the marketplace, even if we don’t have big budgets.

Specifically, we’re finding more and more brands making a buzz in the court of social media, and there’s something to be learned from every one of them: the good and the, shall we say, not-so-good.

Marketing strategy mishaps


One of the most newsworthy marketing moments of late came from PepsiCo, which made headlines about snacks designed for women. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree talking about “Lady Doritos,” asking CEO Indra Nooyi to focus on the bigger issues facing women that are making headlines right now. Even Ellen had something to say about it!

The lesson: Before any public announcement, prepare a message track that you have vetted with those closest to you to make sure it all makes sense. Then, make sure you understand the greater consciousness happening in the world and consider it in everything you say and do.


We recently enjoyed an entire buffet of Super Bowl commercials, many of them scoring quite well with consumers. But, one commercial in particular failed to resonate the way the company must have hoped. Ram Trucks used a voiceover clip from a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King that talks about service, and in the context of the commercial, it came across as disingenuous.

The lesson: Make sure your branding is consistent across the board, from your product or service offering to all of your marketing materials and messaging.

Marketing strategy successes

L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean, via Facebook and perhaps other touch-points, announced that it was no longer offering a lifetime guarantee, but rather a one-year return policy along with further consideration for defects that occur after that time. The company basically blamed those who abused the policy for having to eliminate it.

Yet, many customers explained that the lifetime guarantee was the only reason to purchase and the only justification for the price points. L.L. Bean kept quiet for a moment, and let other customers come to its defense by explaining the reasonableness of the policy and the need to uphold sustainable business policies. I actually joined in myself on that one! As a result, what could have been bad buzz quickly became a non-news item.

The lesson: Let your loyalists speak on your behalf in good times and in bad. Others can be far more influential for you than you can be for yourself.


Retailer CVS announced that it will no longer retouch photography in the marketing of its beauty products and it will stamp or label any other brands who continue to retouch or alter imagery, in an effort to promote positive self-esteem and healthy beauty standards. While viewed in conjunction with its decision to discontinue tobacco products a few years back, this move was heralded as yet another triumph.

The lesson: create a powerful platform that people can rally behind and that is at the core of what you do, and stick to it by repeating it with consistent and innovative initiatives over and over again.


After 140,000 applications to be the new Gerber spokesbaby, the brand picked its first baby with Down Syndrome after 90 years, which met with an immediate standing ovation on social media.The brand announced Lucas on The Today Show. According to Gerber CEO Bill Partyka in a press release, it was Lucas’s “winning smile and joyful expression” that won him the role and by the looks of the pic everyone could see why.  In one moment, Gerber proved its long-lasting mantra of inclusion that says “every baby is a Gerber baby.”

The lesson: Make sure your marketing materials reflect your brand — and prevailing attitudes that are relevant to your brand.

Marketing is certainly a spectator sport, for big brands and small. Pay attention to what’s out there in the marketplace, and you’ll learn things that you can positively apply to your marketing plan, too.


These Experts Warn You about Leadership Mistakes Made By First-Time Entrepreneurs

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Thus speaketh Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the famous French writer particularly known for his remarkable work, The Little Prince.

Being an entrepreneur is more about sharing your vision and your passion than organising schedules and manpower, in short, to portray yourself as a true leader. However, in many cases, the new business owners need to take the position of the head of the company without having any prior experience of working as CEOs. This creates a disconnect between best practices and behaviours.

As fresh patterns emerge with those new to being their own boss, experts feel that there are errors in it. Here are some of the oft-made mistakes that industry leaders ascribe to first-time entrepreneurs.

Buying for Best Talents Instead of Nurturing Them

Every business owner dreams of engaging the best minds in the industry in their organisation. However, the problem lies in the fact that best resources also enjoy the best pay-packages, which new businesses are unable to offer.

Lacking in the leadership experience which teaches one to manage human resource with strong core skills, the new CEOs fail to appreciate and support the requirements of the best minds. With their hefty pay cheques, these employees turn out to be expensive, creating a situation of loss rather than growth or expansion.

The better way is to gain the knowledge of how to foster such potential skilled resources rather than buy them.

“Once I was looking for professional photographers for a very significant event held by my company. We soon found that the high profile shutterbugs demanded loads of money. To save the huge expenditure I searched for the amateurs with an eye for design but without much business experience. Even though they had not commercialised their skills, they were brilliant at their job. This allowed me to get unbelievable work at a much less expense,” recounted Lab Gupta, Founder Fun Toys and Fun Clean.

Falling Victim to Trends

Blindly following competitors is a mistake most of the new businesses make across industries. The belief is ‘when it has worked for them it will work for me too’. What they fail to see is following the competitors makes the clients brand them as copycats rather than someone with an exclusive identity and purpose.

“Avoid falling victim to trends. Stay true to your message, mission and create techniques to draw the attention of others towards it. Businesses need time and patience to create their appeal amongst the customers. Many big businesses first started as a niche product or service which gradually advanced to a simpler and widely accepted unit,” notified Dr. Bala V Balachandran, Founder, Dean and Chairman, Great Lakes Institute of Management.

Failing to Develop a Comprehensive Revenue Model

Everyone who is in business wants to make a profit. Most also know about the product or service which they are selling and it’s making cost. What often, gets ignored is creating a revenue model which is much more important than learning to do a transaction. The lifetime worth of a client has to be made clear in the mind, so does a sketch on capturing that worth over time.

“It is a very common misconception that an entrepreneur needs to find new customers once a buyer buys their products. In its place, one should deeply work on the ways to optimize and extend the relationship with the existing clientele. This helps in faster growth,” suggested Biswanath Bhattacharya President Federation of Small and Medium Industries (FOSMI).

The secret of writing a fine revenue model is similar to that of drafting a business plan. All one needs is to foretell all the products in the next decade and make the patron’s journey easy in dealing with your company. The model can alter with time, but the map and direction remain same.

Getting Egoistic

Ego and arrogance of the top management of a company have brought the doom of more businesses than any other factor. When many big corporates have collapsed because of these two vices, it is very important for the leaders of fledgling ones to try hard and avoid indulging in them.

“One of the best qualities of good leaders and managers is to admit their faults and flaws and try to make up for the damage done. Killing the ego is the first step in doing so,” prescribed Kuldip Maity, Founder, Village Finance.

Let these four warnings keep you from making the same mistakes most first-time entrepreneurs make. Invest the time to grow your business and plan for the future the right way.


3 Financing Keys for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

By design, MIT’s launch of “The Engine” last October gave aspiring entrepreneurs new hope. The venture offers startups funding, space and expertise. For companies in the scientific and technological sector, in particular, The Engine aims to put innovation ahead of profits by providing support to young companies with transformative potential.

MIT’s program is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak funding landscape, but its scope is limited. And it’s only a blip in terms of what’s needed overall. Because the reality is that the banking system is broken, and it’s keeping many entrepreneurs from turning their ideas into businesses.

Fewer banks mean fewer entrepreneurs.

The numbers are dramatic. Since the 1980s, the United States has gone from 15,000 banks to just 5,000, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Of the ones remaining, just 12 megabanks control nearly 70 percent of banking assets, former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard W. Fisher noted in a 2013 speech.

What’s more, big banks tend to favor big business. Reliant on traditional (but outdated) underwriting models, these institutions find it difficult to assess the potential and risk entrepreneurial companies pose. And that’s posed a hardship for those small companies, because instead of prompting banks to adapt, the consolidation trend has actually had the opposite effect: Banks simply aren’t lending to many startups.

Need proof? Look no further than the declining entrepreneurship rate. Trending downward for decades, the percentage of new businesses fell below an important threshold in 2008. That year, more businesses closed down than new ones were created, for the first time since tracking began, according to Gallup. The decline has continued ever since.

For any new company to survive, then, it must explore the road less traveled.

The curious case of Amazon

While Amazon hasn’t seemed like a “startup” or a “young company” for quite some time, the retail giant offers an interesting case study in current financing realities for new businesses that challenge the status quo. The company has a history of favoring growth and has spent years creating significant asset value, but not earning a profit.

The traditional financial underwriting model just wasn’t able to appropriately assess an opportunity like the one Amazon represents. So, as a result, initial funding didn’t come from a bank.

Obviously, Amazon found other avenues to execute its vision. And that vision worked: As of the third quarter of 2016, it posted its sixth consecutive profitable quarter, with several quarters setting company records.

Okay, not every startup is an Amazon. But when it comes to obtaining capital, aspiring entrepreneurs face hurdles that force most of them to scramble to figure out their financing. Such limited options can stifle innovation, risk-taking and the ability to get companies up and running.

Out with the old: financing fundamentals for 2017

The truth is, even if traditional banks can’t be bothered to help, alternative funding options for startups exist. From bootstrapping or friends-and-family funding, to crowdfunding and venture capital, these options have reshaped the challenge for entrepreneurs: Today, they need to focus on not getting so caught up in accessing capital that their execution suffers.

Here are three keys to help maintain your own entrepreneurial momentum while you explore options and obtain financing.

1. Forget the 50-page business plan.Don’t wait for the planets to align. Get started now. The days of writing an intricate business plan and getting a bank loan are over. Today, it’s about focusing on developing a minimum viable product and continuing to iterate in parallel with building your company and securing the necessary financing.

Entrepreneurs like BarkBox co-founder Henrik Werdelin have been touting the virtues of the 100-day approach: If an idea can’t be developed into a minimum viable product that garners customer interest within 100 days, it gets dropped completely.

In other words, given the speed of marketplace change, getting to market as soon as possible is imperative. Entrepreneurs who spend years developing an idea often find the market has left them behind. Instead, the easiest, fastest and most economical way to validate an idea is to put it into the market sooner rather than later. And speed has its rewards: Getting some market traction can work wonders for attracting additional financing.

2. Spend more sweat than money.In the early stages, spend carefully and use equity wisely when you’re acquiring talent, vendors and service providers. Build — and pay for — only what’s needed to develop and deliver the minimum viable product.

Poor cash-flow management is the reason 82 percent of young companies fail, according to Jessie Hagen of U.S. Bank. When cash is in short supply, consciously putting a heavier value on sweat equity helps keep spending in check and the business moving forward.

3. Don’t beg; build relationships instead.When seeking financing, keep in mind that old adage about people wanting what they can’t have. At the start, be especially mindful of cultivating relationships. Don’t be desperate for financing — or at least don’t convey that. Nothing chases bankers and investors away faster than a proposal that sounds like groveling.

Instead, focus on creating in investors and lenders a sense of FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Generating market excitement and feedback through effective delivery of a minimum viable product can do more to create investor interest than any plan or proposal.

So, if you can connect on an emotional level and build relationships over time, potential investors will ask to be part of your company’s future, instead of the other way around.

The bottom line: The best way to go from idea to startup to successful business is to keep moving forward. Financing — or the lack of it — stops a lot of entrepreneurs before they get started. While it’s not easy to build a company with little capital, taking incremental steps to get a solution to market paves the way for investment down the road. So, you’ll have won on both fronts.


Research Shows That Your First-Time Managers Aren’t Ready to Lead. Now, What?

Here’s a staggering fact: A 2016 survey of 500 managers from micro-learning platform Grovo found that 44 percent felt unprepared for their role. Additionally, 87 percent wished they’d had more training before becoming a manager.

Numbers like these suggest that organizations aren’t providing first-time managers with enough, or maybe any training, that they’re just getting a new title, a raise, a fhandshake and a friendly “good luck.” But that isn’t the truth. In fact, 99 percent of companies in the Grovo survey said they offer management training.

So, what’s the disconnect? What seems to be happening is that managers are just receiving the wrong type of preparation. To improve training for first-time managers, here’s what you can do to help new leaders overcome the typical challenges:

Do encourage collaboration.

One of the hardest transitions new managers have is learning how to foster collaboration. They need to transition from knowing how to work in a group to how to create the right work environment.

“[Great leaders] prioritize two-way communication and trust within their teams,” Summer Salomonsen, chief learning officer of San Francisco-based Grovo, said in an email.

Regularly giving and soliciting feedback is the foundation for collaboration. It shows team members that they are in a safe space, where their unique contributions are appreciated. So, model this behavior with all employees — especially those being considered for management positions.

Another modeling behavior to display if you’re a senior leader is to sit in on brainstorming sessions. Ask questions and give praise. Then sit down with potential managers. Find out what they observed and how they felt.

Having them talk through what they experienced from a collaborative management session will show them how important it is for them to lead the same way.

Don’t let new leaders lose sight of their employees.

After a promotion, many new managers feel more loyal to their company. While this is natural, it shouldn’t mean that a new leader is less loyal to the people the or she manages. Instead, the new leader needs to recognize team members’ needs and advocate for their well-being and development.

Rich Arundel, co-founder and general manager of North America operations for the New York-based online payment platform Currencycloud, suggests teaching “mirror” management. This occurs when new managers follow cues from their employees and adapt their behavior accordingly.

For example, if an employee is the quiet type, he or she will likely respond better to a manager who uses a softer tone.

“As a manager, you have as much obligation to your employees as you do to your company,” Arundel said by email. “Employees will respect you and work harder for you if they genuinely believe you have their best interests at heart and care about their career.”

To get new managers to understand this “mirror” technique, have them write down their own natural characteristics. How do they speak, observe and think? Then have them write down leadership behaviors they think will help them make the most of their own traits.

Do address the awkwardness.

Often, new managers become the bosses of their former peers. And this can lead to awkward situations. An employee’s joke might cross a line, for instance. The new manager might feel uncomfortable giving an order.

“Additionally, others on the team may have applied for the same role,” Matt Becker, coaching and mentoring manager at the managed healthcare company CareSource, in Dayton, Ohio, said via email. “[Others] may resent that they didn’t receive the promotion.”

With all that potential for tension, address the elephant in the room.

First, before any promotional decision, be clear about how the choice will be made. Explain to each candidate what’s being considered. Then, when the choice is made, publicly announce how the candidate selected met all the criteria.

Provide conflict-resolution training for the first-time manager. Give him or her the chance to practice giving orders to friends. If need be, bring in team members to role-play and express their feelings about having a friend who’s now their superior.

Don’t encourage your new manager’s “DIY” mentality.

New managers want to prove they deserve the role. Since they’re new at leading, they’re unsure how to do this. They focus on trying to do as much as possible by themselves — the same as they did when they were individual contributors. But this do-it-yourself attitude can lead to poor leadership and burnout.

Karl Alomar is the COO of the New York City-based cloud-computing platform DigitalOcean. To become a successful manager, he told me, a first-timer needs to let go of his or her old notions of success. “The best managers empower their teams and in turn create more velocity by expanding on the work just one person could do,” he said.

So, encourage that team empowerment. Stress the importance of delegation in manager training. Provide practice scenarios in which new leaders have a project description and a list of employees. See how they would divide up the tasks. Then provide feedback so these new leaders can learn how to use the strengths of others instead of their own time and energy.


5 Advertising Strategies for Entrepreneurs Coping With Facebook’s Revised News Feed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Facebook’s News Feed is very much a moving target these days. In early January, the company tweaked the News Feed to emphasize posts from friends and family. In practice, that means that users will see fewer organic posts from brands and publishers. More recently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the platform will highlight more local news.

Some have speculated that Facebook’s identity crisis will cause a downward spiral. Business owners might want to consider advertising elsewhere while Facebook figures out what it wants to be. That may be bad news for some. Startups in particular have become adept at using Facebook’s ad-targeting capabilities. But as I’ve been arguing for some time, Facebook is a poor vehicle for advertising messages, especially video. With these latest News Feed changes, ad prices are likely to rise.

If Facebook ads have been a mainstay of your media diet, you might want to ponder how you can take advantage of changes caused by these News Feed tweaks. Here are five ways to do that:

Make better deals with publishers.

Though Facebook has said that the changes will take months, publishers are already freaking out about the prospect of losing Facebook-based pageviews. In particular, the change will affect publishers’ branded content efforts, which had offered a 50-70 percent margin. In the short term, some publishers are doubling down on notifications, a tactic that’s sure to annoy users. Since advertisers have been gravitating these past few months to brand-safe A-list publications, the News Feed changes give them a stronger hand in negotiations.

Consider using Messenger.

While Facebook limited brands’ presence in the News Feed, the company is eagerly soliciting marketers to try out Messenger. That effort has been going on for a while. Last year, Facebook updated Messenger’s natural language processing to give chatbots more context for conversations. That tweak also included new payment options and a new set of call-to-action buttons. If the past is any guide, Facebook will ensure that brands have a strong presence on Messenger until it feels the platform has taken off. Only then will it make it harder for brands to get visibility there. The focus on Messenger also dovetails with marketers’ needs. A recent survey showed that 80 percent of marketers plan to launch a chatbot by 2020.

Forget about organic reach.

If you were still clinging to the idea that you could get traction with your Facebook posts, then this latest News Feed change should be a wake-up call. Back in 2016, Facebook admitted its organic reach for brands was south of 2 percent and it has fallen at least 20 percent since then. For brands, Facebook is a pay-for-play medium.

Boost the quality of your content.

If you continue to advertise on Facebook, make it count. Create content that has a good chance of breaking through. Rather than a “spray and pray” approach, consider creating less content but spending more time on it. Drop the link bait, in other words.

Of course, quality is subjective. In this case, it means “whatever Facebook users think is good.” Industry benchmarks for Facebook ads also let you know how they’re performing overall. Savvy advertisers also use randomized controlled trials — a method that Facebook itself prefers — to see if exposure to an ad prompted more activity than no exposure at all.

Have less Facebook in your media diet.

Instead of absorbing Facebook’s price increases, consider that a News Feed that’s based more on friends and family will be an even less hospitable place for ad messages. Experiment with other ad venues like the open web, Snapchat, LinkedIn and even Facebook’s own Instagram to see whether you get a better response.

Far from ushering in the end of the world, Facebook’s News Feed tweak will likely restore some much-needed diversity in digital media. As Facebook’s changes sink in, publishers will work harder to build their own brands and marketers will experiment with different formats. That’s why Facebook’s News Feed changes aren’t such a bad thing. You might even say it’s good news.


3 Leadership Strategies That Will Help Your Business Grow

All my life, I’ve loved fixing and improving things, whether I’m tinkering in the garage or revamping a company’s strategy. That love is what brought me to NCR in 2005, where I was tasked as CEO with fixing an unsustainable business model.

NCR was losing its market share and hemorrhaging revenue. The company’s most valuable asset was Teradata, a data warehousing software that had little to do with NCR’s business. And the company lacked the strategy or infrastructure to adapt to the technological changes sweeping the world. There was a lot to do.

Now, over a decade later, NCR has transformed itself into an industry leader with an eye to the future. To get there, we had to make several adjustments to the way things had been done for decades. It wasn’t easy, but we made the changes necessary to thrive. Here are three things I did that can help you fix your company.

Shift the culture.

When I started at NCR, the company culture was strong, but rigid. The team didn’t believe in NCR’s ability to change. If we were going to transform the company, I knew that I would have to make the case to our employees personally — not with an email or a phone call, but by looking them in the eye and telling them. That’s why I spent my first few years as CEO communicating a vision for where NCR was going.

For more than a decade, I’ve backed up that message with action. Today, as part of NCR’s reinvention, we are focused on generating a majority of our revenue from software. Today our purpose is to power iNCRedible experiences that make life easier. We are building a team of iNCRedibles who live to move commerce forward through innovation.

That calls for hiring people with specialized knowledge and skills, and we knew that one surefire way to attract those people would be to go to where they’re located. So we decided to develop a state-of-the-art world headquarters that’s adjacent to the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Georgia Tech, as it’s better known, is one of the top universities in the country when it comes to preparing its students for a wide range of jobs in the tech sector. Our proximity to the school, and our partnership with it, sends a powerful message about our commitment to becoming a dynamic, software-driven technology company.

Shake up your line-up.

To reinvent an enterprise, you need the right team. When I arrived at NCR in 2005, I knew that if I wanted to prepare the company for the 21st century, I would need fellow fixers behind me. I turned to a number of the people who had helped me at Cisco and Symbol in the past, and together we built a new NCR lineup that was agile and forward-thinking.

We were focused on empowering ordinary people to do extraordinary things and achieve extraordinary results. NCR’s progress since 2005, and our ability to create lasting and productive change, has been made possible by having the right talent in place.

Commit to seeing change through.

Strong leadership nearly always requires difficult decisions. I knew I’d have to make some to grow NCR. One of these decisions came early in my tenure.

In 2005, Teradata had dramatically higher revenues than NCR, but the businesses had little in common. There was little overlap in their end-markets, and there was always competition for internal resources between the two. This wasn’t a sustainable model, and so we made a bold choice: We sold Teradata.

The real lesson here, however, isn’t just about making difficult decisions — it’s about seeing them through to the end. I’m a fix-it guy, and I knew I belonged at NCR to reach where we are today. And I’m going to continue working with my colleagues to ensure that NCR is one of the world’s most innovative technology companies.


Best Tips for Creating Google Display Ads and Landing Pages

Assuming you’re not a hands-on graphic designer, you have three good options when it comes to creating Google Display Ads and landing pages:

1. Use Google’s Ad Gallery. Find it by going into an ad group within a Display Network enabled campaign and clicking the blue “+” button. You can use any of Google’s free preset templates and insert your own images and text, or you can use Google’s auto-create feature that automatically generates ads by searching your website and existing Search ads. (The results aren’t always the best looking, but the tool is free, quick and easy.)

2. Find a budget designer. There’s a plethora of online services that will create image ads for you. We like and, where for $20 to $30 a piece, you can have some nice custom designs crafted in a few days or even hours. Both of these websites have portfolio pages, which are worth perusing if you’re short on ideas.

3. Hire a pro designer. Find the right professional freelance graphic designer, one who takes time with the creative process and isn’t grinding out dozens or hundreds of designs per day, and you can end up with some stunning and original images for your campaign.

Google has explicit rules on what is and isn’t allowed in image ads. Check every one of your ads against Google’s requirements before activating your campaign. Here are a few rules that Google Display Network (GDN) users most commonly fail to apply:

Technical specifications

  • Static images must be in jpg, png, or gif format and be of a file size no greater than 150 KB.
  • Animated images must be an animated gif or the correct version of Flash (swf), must run for no longer than 30 seconds (looping images are allowed, but must cease movement after 30 seconds), and be no more than five frames per second (fps) for gifs and 20 fps for swf. In either case, 150 KB is still the maximum file size.

Content specifications

  • No “trick-to-click” ads. The ad must look like an ad and clearly differentiate itself from the rest of the page on which it resides. If the ad is designed to look like a system warning or error message, it will be flagged and disabled.
  • The ad image must fill the entire image size and be correctly oriented.
  • The ad image cannot be “tiled” or appear to be more than one image (for example, one image designed to look like three different text ads).
  • The ad must be relevant to the landing page it’s sending people to.
  • The image must be of a high quality without any fuzziness or blurred images.
  • All text on the image must be legible.
  • Animated images can’t use strobe or flashing lights.
  • The image must be suitable for a family audience. Google takes a hard line on this one. Nothing even remotely borderline will be tolerated.

GDN landing pages

Generally speaking, you don’t want to send your display traffic straight to a sign-up form or product to be purchased. People who are clicking on display network ads are less ready to buy or hand over their personal information. They need to be given more useful, relevant and valuable content to consume. Treat it like a first date. Let them warm up to you, rather than trying to go straight for the sale.

It used to be that the prime goal of almost any smart site owner was to capture a visitor’s email address on their first visit. That’s changing. Most businesses are now happy to just cookie visitors and remarket to them instead. So the funnel now follows this sequence:

1.Eye-catching display ad
2.Webpage where you provide valuable content (without requiring visitors to take any action)
3.Remarketing ad where you bring them back to see additional content
4.Offer where they can give you their email or make a purchase

The point where you provide something of value and they give you their contact information is now more likely to occur on the second or third date.


How to Be a Big Fish in an Even Bigger Pond

As the calendar pages have turned to a new year, many people are setting resolutions to work harder and smarter, to get ahead of the pack. This time last year, 30 percent of employees set resolutions to get a raise or promotion in the coming year, a worthwhile pursuit. However, this may seem daunting, especially in larger companies were you can sometimes feel like a cog in a machine.

The good news for you is that you have a lot of control over how people view you, your work, and your leadership potential. There may be more competition in a larger organization, but there are also many more opportunities for growth. Here are some tips to distinguish yourself as a leader this year — and beyond.

Promote yourself, not your self-interests.

Half the battle of differentiating yourself from your colleagues lies in the nuances of communicating your achievements without bragging. Show that you’re ambitious: be hungry for work, curious and eager to learn, and invested in your team’s success. Ambition is very different from self-interest. And people can tell the difference between the two. When someone is trying to lead to promote their own self-interest, it’s detectable.

To be a true leader, it’s crucial that your decision-making and your actions serve to promote the good of the whole: think colleagues, customers and partners, and the overall company mission. In other words, over-promoting a personal attainment instead of looking out for the good of the whole is not positive brand building. In short, be a team player.

Understand and build your leadership skills.

Before you can establish yourself as a leader, you need to prove that you can manage people and tasks. Understanding your leadership style and how that translates to your day-to-day performance is key. Understanding the unique value you bring to a team and a company is even more important.

Once you understand how you work best, consistency in your behavior is critical, as is constant communication. Both create trust with colleagues and the individuals you manage. Consistent behavior and effective communication instill confidence with teams and senior management.

Companies place a lot of value on employee trust and dependability. That’s why it’s important to establish the qualities of follow-up and follow-through during professional development. Further, to build your true leadership capabilities, showcase your management skills: Share team wins and goals met, and communicate regularly with your colleagues. Become an advocate, mentor and partner to those around you.

Take advantage of available resources.

A significant benefit to working at a larger company is the amount of resources, programs and people available to support your professional development. Larger companies tend to have the financial wherewithal to invest more in people’s career growth. Enterprises often have formalized training programs or professional development programs available. Whether it’s an online training or an in-person workshop, take advantage of these opportunities. Not only are you showing an investment in your personal growth, your engagement and personal commitment to development sets the right example for those around you.

One-on-one mentorship also provides an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. A mentor can provide you with actionable advice on the internal nuances you should be aware of when working to advance your career within the company. They will know the key people you should associate and collaborate with, the skills that are highly valued by the company for people in your desired position, and the priorities of the business upon which you should focus your output and contribution. With a bit of “insider” insight, you can prime yourself for new leadership opportunities.

If your current company does not have any training or mentoring opportunities at the moment, another great way to demonstrate your leadership ability is to spearhead a pilot program to create those opportunities.

New Year, new you?

Executives and key decision-makers always identify the high potential leaders among their ranks. If you are committed to meeting and exceeding your goals within the new year, you’ll need to make sure you that you not only stand out from your peers (for all the right reasons), but you demonstrate clear potential for leadership and success. Focus on the right things in terms of your customers, your partners and your colleagues, and align with the company’s top priorities.

As a part of a larger company, you likely had an end-of-the-year performance review. I encourage you to look back at last year’s goals. How did you do? Be honest with yourself and focus on areas of development as well as your strengths. As it relates to the areas of development, create clear, actionable plans that will help you grow your skills. Ultimately, it’s up to you to take control of your own destiny and set a course for an awesome year.


8 Old-School Branding Techniques That Will Still Work for You Today

Everything seems so fast-paced these days: You go to bed one night and wake up the next morning to the announcement of an entirely new technology, or a breakthrough on a project that seemed far-fetched until, well, this moment.

If you personally have issues with the speed of change, imagine what companies contend with: To keep up and stay relevant, they have to adapt their branding, marketing and sales efforts at a pace at least as fast as that of the new techologies’ debuts.

Gone are the Mad Men days of designing billboards and magazine ads (those jobs still get done, just in a different way and with different tools). In are the days of instant publishing. Despite the changes that the marketing industry has experienced, though, there are still some old-school branding and marketing strategies that work as effectively as before. Just because they seem old-fashioned doesn’t mean they’re out of date.

Here are eight aged but still workable branding and marketing strategies that are as effective in 2018 as they were back in the day.

Business cards. Business cards are less common now that text and email are so prevalent, but they’re still as effective as ever. Rather than simply telling someone what you do and asking them to email you if they’re interested, (though they may not remember your email address), a physical business card is more personal.
Business cards visually represent you and your brand — they have your logo and contact information, which will visually stand out in your prospect’s mind. Moreover, not only do business cards stand out visually, but because you made a physical, personal connection, the next time that prospect needs your company’s type of services services, he or she will likely contact you first.

Snail mail. Who doesn’t love getting a personal letter? Unfortunately, nowadays, mail most of the time is just bills and advertising disguised as letters or important documents. You on the other hand don’t have to trick consumers into opening your mail, in order to have a successful snail mail campaign. Although impersonal ads are disappointing, coupons and discount notifications are not.

Public talks at events.  Speaking at events is a great way to get your company’s name out to people already interested in your industry. You can search out events related to your vertical or let connections know that you’re interested in speaking; then prepare an address that is educational and meaningful and will make a lasting impression.

Think about the last time you attended an event about something you were interested in. Did any of the speakers stand out to you? Why? When you find a speaker to be impressive, take notes, then apply his or her techniques to the next time you have the opportunity to raise awareness about your company. Offer yourself to speak at an event.
Publishing testimonials.Testimonials are as effective today as they’ve ever been. Customers turn to online reviews and testimonials all the time before making online purchasing decisions or deciding which service provider they want to use.

So, asking existing clients for testimonials and then publishing their words on your website and printed marketing materials will help establish trust between your brand and your customers and potential customers.

Sponsorships for community events.  One old school but great way to get your company’s name out there is your sponsorship of a community event. Whether it be a local high school football team or a charity walk to raise cancer awareness, an event that gets you involved in your community through your sponsorship will raise awareness of your company and the things you do. It makes for great PR as well.

Cold calls. The term “cold calls” has a negative connotation, but why? Perhaps the reason is that rejection is tough and some people just aren’t cut out for sales. Assigning one of those people to cold calling probably won’t result in much success. Others, though, do their best work when making cold calls.

So, if you’re pursuing this strategy, you’ll need a plan in place that includes a list of potential customers, a strategy and possibly a script. Once you feel confident in your pitch, call the customers on the list. Don’t be afraid to digress a little bit or indulge in a personal conversation, since it will warm your prospect up and keep the conversation friendly.
A branding redesign. If your brand has been around for some time, it may be time for a redesign. Although this can be a difficult undertaking, redesigning your brand, logo and the overall look of your company can get you a lot of attention. This is especially true if your branding is outdated. Old customers will enjoy a fresh new look while potential customers will get curious and pay more attention because, let’s face it, sometimes we do judge books by their covers.

Trade shows. Trade shows like CES are still as popular as ever. Whether you attend trade shows in your local area or travel to national and even global events, participating in and presenting at trade shows is a great way to increase brand recognition. Not only can you get your name out there, but you can show potential partners and customers your products, what they do and what else you have been working on.

Alhough these strategies may not be the newest ways to brand and market your business, they have been tried, tested and proven true. Which have you found to be the most effective for you and your business?


Being a Born Entrepreneur Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re a Born Leader

More often than not, we tend to think of entrepreneurship and leadership as synonymous qualities.

Entrepreneurs are expected to break new ground, be innovative, start something new. It only stands to reason they would naturally take charge of what they’ve created and lead it.

However, it turns out that the required skills of an effective entrepreneur are almost entirely different from the required skills of an effective leader. As many CEOs of growing companies can tell you, there’s a vast difference between creating a business and growing one.

One of the primary reasons great entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were so influential was precisely because they were both master entrepreneurs and leaders.

To successfully grow a business, an entrepreneur must learn how to become an effective leader. Here are the five leadership skills every entrepreneur must master:


Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, who run growing businesses are eventually shocked to realize it is impossible to do everything by themselves. Most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the idea of delegation. They want to do everything themselves because they have a natural sense of ownership over their work. They find it difficult to believe anyone else would do what needs to be done. After all, they were the ones who built the business from scratch all by themselves.

The reality is, though, as a business grows, so does the amount of work that needs to go into running it.

Leaders understand their own time and energy are finite resources. Great leaders understand that, to be most effective in the company, they must play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to others who are more qualified.

Steve Jobs famously played a very small part in building the OS and designing the original Apple computers. He knew how to grow a business, so he focused on what he could do and wisely left it to Steve Wozniak and his team to execute his vision.


The perk of being a lone wolf is that you know exactly what needs to be done and the right way to do it. But, that has to change when you find yourself a leader.

We all have horror stories of working for a manager who didn’t communicate instructions effectively, which inevitably leads to confusion and frustration from both parties. As a leader, you’ll need to clearly and succinctly explain everything from your vision to administrative tasks to your employees.

But, communication is not a one-way street. You need to know what to say and how to listen. Effective leaders don’t simply give orders. They accept feedback and criticism, as well.

A constant bridge of communication between a leader and an employee not only reduces inefficiencies but also leads to a healthier and more productive workplace for all.


Entrepreneurs seldom lack in the inspiration department. They were passionate enough to start a business themselves, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. A key skill of any good leader is to inspire the people around them.

It’s not enough to simply tell people what their job is and expect them to do it. To get the most out of your team, you have to make them believe in your vision and feel like they’re actively making an impact in their role. This is especially important when working in a startup.
The good news is that anyone can become an inspiring leader as long as they create a clear culture around the company’s vision, values, and beliefs.

When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO, he quickly realized the majority of his employees were no longer focused on providing customers with a positive experience. This led him to shut down 7,100 stores one day to retrain all baristas on making an espresso. This bold move not only sharpened his employees’ technical skills, but also quickly brought Starbucks’ ultimate vision back into focus.


As an entrepreneur, you should be well aware of just how powerful a mentor can be to personal and professional growth. As a leader, if you want your employees to be as effective as possible, you need to do more than just give them orders.

Along with giving them the resources they need to do their job well, you also need to be able to help them move forward in their own careers.

This can be as simple as offering them training in skills they are interested in, giving them more responsibilities, or spending more one-on-one time with them. Leaders should be able to do more than just lead from the front; they have to be able to provide support from behind as well.
By adopting a coaching mentality, you can be assured of your employees’ loyalty to you and your vision. Plus, helping your employees achieve their full potential means they’re more likely be an asset to you and your business.


It should go without saying that being innovative and adaptive is key for entrepreneurs. But, instead of only using their knack for problem-solving on market opportunities, leaders are also focused on providing solutions for problems within the company.

A large part of running a growing company is learning how to deal with internal problems like employee disputes, disorganization, or a lack of motivation. Employees will always look to the leader to solve these issues.

When no clear-cut solutions are present, leaders need to be able to think outside the box. One surefire way to quickly lose both the respect and trust of your employees is to outsource the solution to someone else or avoid responsibility by blaming others.

Last-minute changes and mishaps happen in any business, so it’s up to the leader to adapt quickly and show everyone else the right way to handle these situations.

If entrepreneurs who have the passion and innovation to start their own businesses can develop these five skills of great leaders, they will be most effective in leadingthose businessess into growth and a bright future.